McKinsey Problem Solving Test Reading Facts Question

1. What is it?

Reading-facts is the most common question type in the McKinsey PST (38%) and the BCG Potential Test (up to 100%). These questions test your ability to understand the facts/data itself. There will be no inferring, logic, hypothesizing, or creativity needed. Instead, proficiency in chart reading and calculations will be handy here.

See the picture beside for an illustration.

Question formats

The following are a few examples of typical question formats:

  • Which of the following values is the best estimate of…?
  • Which of the following statements is valid based on the data …?
  • Which of the following can be concluded from Exhibit …?

Sometimes even though the word “conclude” is used, questions don’t require any logical reasoning, just your ability to read facts and perform basic calculations. In these cases, I still classify these questions into the reading-facts category.

2. Example of a reading facts question

This question is written based on an official McKinsey practice PST.

Which of the following statements is valid based on the data in Table 1?

A) Soccer revenue was more than $325 thousand five years ago
B) Tennis revenue grew by no less than 1.2% in each of the last five years
C) The total revenue of Saigon League did not grow at all in the last five years
D) If the growth rate in the last 5 years is maintained, Soccer revenue will be more than $420 k 5 years from now.

You will see that no tricky logical reasoning is needed here. All you need in order to answer these questions is the ability to read the table and perform calculations correctly.

3. Common mistakes

A good way to determine the correct option is to investigate if the other three are wrong. Now there are two ways you can be wrong in this type of PST question: (1) Incorrect calculation and (2) Misread the facts/ data
Type #2 is harder to understand, so I will dive deeper into that here. Let’s look at the sample question above. Hope you got D, the correct choice.

Example 1: How you can miss-read the data – Why A is wrong
If you overlook the phrase “Average annual” on column 3′s title, then Soccer revenue 5 years ago would be: $342.8 k / (100% + 4.5%) = $328 k, which is more than $325 thousand. Revenue grew at the average rate of 4.5% in EACH of the last 5 years. It is NOT 4.5% over the whole period of 5 years.

Example 2: How you can miss-read the data – Why B is wrong
If you overlook the phrase “Average” in column 3′s title, then it seems like the growth rate for each of the last 5 years is exactly 1.2%, no more, no less. B, therefore, seems correct. However, as indicated in the table, the 1.2% is just an average figure, which means there are years with lower or higher growth rate.

Example 3: How you can miss-read the data – Why C is wrong
If you overlook the second column of the table (Revenue this year column), then it seems like the average overall growth rate for Saigon League is 0% (4.5% + 3.3% + 1.2% – 9% = 0%), which makes C correct. However, different lines have different sizes. Even though Golf had a negative growth of 9%, it is a relatively small line so its impact on the overall rate is small as well.

Again, PST is a simple test… when you have enough time!

4. Preparation Guide

I am always amazed that up to 38% of your success depends on questions that require very basic skills. Your overall PST result can be greatly improved simply by focusing on the fundamentals.

We have a detailed article on Consulting Math and how to strengthen your quantitative proficiency.

Always take a moment to read and understand every single chart or graph you encounter in your everyday life.  After all, practice makes perfect.
You can also improve your reading speed through an amazing speed reading program by Princeton University.

The devil is in the details. It’s the little things that can make or break a project, and no true consultants would let themselves be caught unaware.

  • Develop the habit in daily life. Have the mindset that I am not going to miss any stupid details.
  • For every practice question you get in this type, make sure you understand not only why an answer is right, but also why an answer is wrong, exactly like what I did above.
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